ESPN's fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN's proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Thursday are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
What you need to know for Lakers-Nuggets Game 3
Teams that win the first two games of a seven-game NBA playoff series at home go on to win that series roughly 94% of the time. Such precedent puts real pressure on the Los Angeles Lakers to defy the odds, which begins with holding court tonight in California as fairly sizable favorites (5.5 points) against the Denver Nuggets.
While Anthony Davis struggled from the floor in Game 2's loss in Denver, my model likes him to soar past 50 DraftKings points this evening. It's not just his fantasy floor that looks good, as only Nikola Jokic claims a higher ceiling in both tonight's game and any slate that includes the player pool for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Teammate Austin Reaves has had arguably the most profitable playoffs of all as he heads into an enriching free-agency window. Reaves has scored at least 22 points in both games of this series so far, and his passing prowess and relatively elite shooting results have driven strong DFS value. Eyeing him for scoring and shooting props can also prove rewarding.
Beyond Jokic being a staple in DFS lineups and for triple-double props, it's still Jamal Murray that surfaces as a savvy start per my model. After all, he's averaging a robust 61 fantasy points in this series against a Lakers team that lacks proven point-of-attack defenders. Tonight's marquee matchup will see the best the Lakers have to offer, while Denver's duo of stars appear ready to counter.
-- Jim McCormick
Breaking down Lakers-Nuggets Game 3
Records (Against the Spread)
Nuggets: 53-29 (44-37-1)
Lakers: 43-39 (39-41-2)
Line: Lakers (-5.5) Total: 222.5
BPI Projection: Lakers by 1.5
Money Line: Nuggets (+210), Lakers (-260)
Nuggets: None reported
Lakers: Anthony Davis, (GTD - Foot); LeBron James, (GTD - Foot); Mo Bamba, (OUT - Ankle)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Best bet: Anthony Davis over 40.5 points + assists + rebounds. The Lakers find themselves in a must-win situation in Game 3 on their home court. Davis must replicate his Game 1 heroics, where he recorded an impressive 40 points, 3 assists and 10 rebounds, in order to give Los Angeles the best chance to win. Throughout the postseason, Davis has displayed a pattern of alternating between exceptional and underwhelming performances. With the Lakers facing an 0-2 deficit, he simply cannot afford another off night, particularly in front of the home fans. Davis will be fed early and often in this game so he can get into a rhythm. -- Eric Moody
Best bet: Lakers -5.5. Los Angeles squandered a significant lead in Game 2. This is a dire situation for the Lakers. Teams have a 6-56 series record all-time when trailing a conference finals 2-0. The one positive for the Lakers is that two of those six series comebacks were from teams featuring LeBron. The Lakers understand that a loss at home in Game 3 would seal their fate and essentially punch the Nuggets' ticket to the NBA Finals. Los Angeles has been an unstoppable force on their home court throughout this year's playoffs, maintaining a 6-0 record against the spread. That's the Lakers team bettors should expect on Saturday. -- Moody